Othello: Great of Heart

Shakespeare’s Othello is indeed a powerful and impressive figure who is tragically brought down by Iago, a villain who goes undetected through his great drive and intellect until the very end of the play. Despite his shortcomings -- of which a lack of self-knowledge is the most glaring -- Othello remains “great of heart” (as Cassio proclaims in Act 5, Scene 2) because he is fundamentally a man of integrity. Furthermore, the fact that Iago universally fools everyone is also something to consider before condemning Othello’s person roundly. At the same time, it should be added that Othello is also “outclassed” by certain occurrences of chance, which the opportunistic Iago then exploits.

The first example of Othello being outclassed in intellect is his lack of self-knowledge; this is with regard to how his military background has affected his logic. In Act 3, Scene 3, he constantly commands Iago to bring him “proof” of Desdemona’s infidelity -- “Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore” -- and yet he easily mistakes the handkerchief for being ocular proof when it is anything but. This may be related to how he believes that “’tis better to be much abused / Than but to know’t a little.” For him, “To be once in doubt / Is once to...

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